Friday, March 22, 2019

Your Kid Goes to Yale? So What?

Dennis Prager
I have told the following to numerous audiences:

I’m hardly a Hollywood celebrity, but almost no day goes by that I am not stopped by a few strangers who want to shake my hand and say something. Needless to say, I rarely know the religious identity of the individual, but if the person tells me what college their child goes to, I assume the individual is a Jew.

When I relate this to Jewish audiences, it invariably evokes a great deal of laughter. Jewish audiences know how true, albeit slightly exaggerated, it is. As I always add, to more laughter, non-Jews don’t tend to tell strangers what college their child attends (which is why non-Jewish audiences don’t find the story nearly as funny).

The story is humorous, but it conveys a serious and troubling fact: Many American Jews define their worth by the college their child attends. In American Jewish life, there are no bragging rights equal to being able to say one’s child attends a prestigious college.

Thanks to the recent revelations about wealthy people — few of whom are Jews — paying large sums of money to bribe coaches and others to get their children into elite schools, it is now clear this perverse affliction is not limited to any ethnic or religious group.

Why would people do what they know to be immoral and illegal just to get their child into Yale — or, for that matter, USC?

I am certain the biggest reason is bragging rights.

Apparently, many American parents define much of their worth as parents — and even as individuals — by what college their child attends.

If I am right, it betrays an extraordinary level of superficiality. That your child got into Yale tells us nothing about you either as a person or as a parent. In fact, it doesn’t tell us anything more about your child other than that he or she studied enough to get great grades and is adept at rowing or playing the oboe or some other extracurricular skill. It tells us nothing about your child’s maturity, common sense or decency, and most importantly, it tells us nothing about his or her character.

In other words, it tells us nothing about any of the important things about a person. Indeed, videos of Yale students screaming “f–k you” at a distinguished (and liberal) Yale professor over an email his wife sent defending “offensive” Halloween costumes — students who were then supported by hundreds of other Yale students (an episode even The Atlantic found repulsive) — leads one to assume that getting into Yale means nothing other than high grades or perhaps membership in the right minority. And it tells us a great deal about the low moral and intellectual state of Yale University — which went on to honor one of the students who screamed epithets at the professor.

In a blind test of character, if I had to hire either a hundred students attending the University of Wyoming or a hundred students attending Yale (or any other prestigious university), I would choose the Wyoming students in a heartbeat. And if I had to choose a spouse for one of my children from among Wyoming or Yale students, I would likewise choose the former. Why? Because they are less likely to think they are the creme de la creme of American society, they are more likely to be working while going to college, they are less likely to support students who curse professors, and they are less likely to think America is a crappy country.

There are, of course, fine young men and women at Yale, but their being fine has nothing to do with why they were admitted to Yale and is not fostered by Yale.

There is a second reason parents will do almost anything to have their child attend a prestigious college: money. They believe attending a prestigious school guarantees a far greater future income, and for those who equate a large income with meaning in life — or with happiness — this is determinative. For those who have a different value system and those who link happiness with a happy family life, close friends and a religious community (a particularly great contributor to happiness), that alleged extra money isn’t nearly as important.

Moreover, this widespread belief isn’t even true. As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni points out in his book “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” among American-born chief executives of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500, only about 30 went to an Ivy League school or equally selective college.

And to the extent the belief that graduates of prestigious colleges will make more money is true, it is largely because young people who get into those colleges are driven to amass money, prestige and/or power. As Yale professor of computer science David Gelernter writes, “They go to Yale to become prominent, powerful, successful, and naturally (why not?) rich and famous.”

Such individuals will earn more than those who are less driven. But virtually any ambitious and capable individual in America will earn good money and if he or she leads a responsible life and saves money wisely, will retire with well more than a million dollars.

Tell your children from the day they understand language that you care far more about their character than about their grades or what college (if any) they go to. Only then will you have a child you can brag about.

But if this college admissions scandal is any indication, I wonder whether most American parents could actually say that to their children.


Gov. DeSantis Should Prioritize School Choice

Florida families are through with one-size-fits-all education.

That’s what 78 percent of Sunshine State voters said, according to a new survey from the Foundation for Excellence in Education. And recent elections tell the tale: Four years ago, Florida mothers supporting school choice cemented former Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election, and only three months ago, school-choice moms decided the gubernatorial election for Ron DeSantis.

If Gov. DeSantis wants to satisfy his supporters, he must respond to parents’ obvious demand for school choice by expanding eligibility for choice programs, with a continued focus on low-income families.

This new survey offers insight on the best way to do that, by revealing how over 800 registered Florida voters view education policy and school choice. Right now, in addition to charter schools, Florida offers three choice programs: Gardiner Scholarships (education scholarship accounts or ESAs), tax-credit scholarships, and voluntary Pre-K programs. Floridians overwhelmingly approve of these programs, with support ranging from 75 to 88 percent, and an astonishing 72 percent supporting an expansion of Florida’s ESA program.

School choice is popular in Florida because it works.

A new study released by the left-leaning Urban Institute examines college enrollment and graduation rates for over 16,000 students who used Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program—the nation’s largest private school choice program. Researchers found that students enrolled in the program are up to 43 percent more likely than their public school peers to enroll in four-year colleges, and are as much as 20 percent more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree. These benefits were more pronounced for students who began using their scholarship in elementary and middle school, further corroborating the benefits of school choice.

It also makes sense that voters want expanded education scholarship accounts. ESAs let parents direct the public funds that would have been spent on their student in the public education system toward funding education tailored to their student’s individual needs.

Currently, Florida’s ESA program is limited to students with certain disabilities, but it could be expanded to help many others. Another report from the Foundation for Excellence in Education and EdChoice found that private school leaders view the high cost of tuition as the main obstacle for families wanting to send their children to private school. As a result, Florida private schools may be operating with over 125,000 empty seats in the next few years. But an expansion of Florida’s ESA program to include low-income students could reduce the tuition barrier preventing low-income families from accessing high-quality education without overstraining existing private school capacity.

Political winds seem to be fully behind Florida’s school choice agenda—as Republicans control the House, Senate, governor’s office, and state Supreme Court. But policymakers should proceed with caution.

While Florida boasts an impressive array of educational options, some programs are more established than others. Rather than trying to immediately expand choice to all students, which would come at a high political cost in such a closely divided state, policymakers should focus on providing access to high-quality education for the thousands of low-income students waiting for choice programs.

Florida lawmakers must act wisely but boldly, taking advantage of the favorable political environment to give more families what they want: the education that is right for their children. The school-choice moms are watching—and they’ll be at the ballot box in 2020.


Education Assessments and the Future of Learning

When parents send their kids to school, they imagine public education will equip their little ones with the skills necessary to support themselves and make the world a better place. Unfortunately, standardized testing distracts students from developing the skills they need to succeed in the workplace and in life. Harvard dropout and education entrepreneur Rebecca Kantar is developing a solution: an education assessment rooted in evaluating how students think not just what they know.

American schools have employed standardized tests for over 150 years. In addition to the SAT, ACT, SAT subject tests, and AP tests which have become the standard for evaluating college readiness, No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Standards established additional standardized tests to evaluate how well students are prepared for college, and subsequently for life.

Yet standardized tests are measuring, and thus encouraging, the wrong aptitudes. While employers call for critical thinking skills, leadership, and character qualities, standardized tests require only right answers. How students achieve those answers means nothing so long as the student fills the right bubble within the time allotted.

Consider the stars of American public education: those who score well enough on the bevvy of standardized tests to attend college.

According to a 2018 McGraw Hill survey of 1,000 of these college graduates, fewer than half feel they’ve gained the skills they need in college to transition from academia to the workforce. Employers report that recent graduates are far from successful even in areas they believe they have mastered. While 66% of students felt they developed critical thinking/problem-solving abilities, only 56% of employers agree. And though 61% of students felt they learned leadership skills, only 33% of employers concur.

In 2018, Bloomberg surveyed 200 senior-level corporate and academic employers about their recent-graduate hires. According to the survey, nearly half of the respondents felt that recent graduates lacked the analytical reasoning, complex-problem solving ability, agility, adaptability, and ethical judgment they needed to perform well in the workplace.

In the words of Los Angeles education entrepreneur and Harvard dropout Rebecca Kantar, “What we test determines what we teach.” To meet employer demands and prepare students to excel beyond academia therefore, educators must start measuring what they need to improve: student thinking.

Kantar is working on an assessment to do just that. Kantar’s company, Imbellus, offers a new approach to education evaluation. Instead of asking students multiple choice questions and assessing right answers, Imbellus offers a virtual testing space, a near video game world, where participants are assessed based on their decisions and interactions.

“Through our virtual world, we assess cognitive skills that matter for this century, skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, imagination and systems-thinking,” Kantar said. “We look at every click, almost click, and action to understand the essence of how people process, develop ideas and make choices.”

Imbellus partners with data scientists and organizations known for their skills in areas such as problem-solving and creativity to translate participants’ decisions within the virtual world to their decision-making skills in real life. These assessments, Kantar argues, reflect the kind of soft skills employers demand and give students, educators, and employers insight into participants’ cognitive development.

“The beauty of the Imbellus technology is that we can track to an atomic level all elements of decision-making,” said Keith McNulty, Global Director of People Analytics at McKinsey & Company. “We can start to map it against known factors in the underlying assessment model. That type of scientific approach is a massive differentiator because it means that we can have the confidence that what we’re measuring is truly relevant to the job.”

And Kantar’s vision is on track for success. By December 2018, Imbellus earned $23 million in venture capital support from Owl Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Thrive Capital, and Rethink Education. Furthermore, McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, began using Imbellus assessments to find job candidates.

“If I win in the next 10-15 years, which is kind of the timeline I’m on,” Kantar said, “then high schools should be free to teach in ways that are relevant, practical, and interesting for their students, and students should have a better shot at graduating into a decent quality of life.”

Imbellus offers American education the shift in priorities it needs to start offering our kids a shot at a better future. Instead of preparing students to earn a score, Imbellus encourages educators to return to a liberal-arts view of education: a view that prizes inquiry, understanding, and application of ideas for individual improvement and the betterment of the world we inhabit.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

School Tries Concealing Drag Makeup Day
“You did what?!” Parents across Santa Ana couldn’t believe it. In one house after another, the answer to “How was school today?” was nothing like they expected. Moms and dads listened in disbelief as their middle schoolers talked about going to an “LGBT Fair” that no one bothered to ask their permission for. There were even people in drag, their 11-year-olds said, giving make-up lessons — right there in school.

Townhall’s Kira Davis listened as one mom fumed about not knowing about the fair until after it happened. There wasn’t even an opportunity to opt-out, she complained at last Tuesday’s school board meeting. Unfortunately, that was just one of the infuriating examples the largely-Hispanic community used to explain how fed-up they were with the state’s new sex ed law. But the problem is a lot bigger than the law, Davis explained. It’s how liberals are exploiting the Spanish-speaking communities to implement it.

In one of the more fiery exchanges of the night, a mom seethed that so many liberals were trying to marginalize California’s multi-ethnic communities. “How can a state that claims to be so much for the rights of immigrants and minorities then ignore our concerns on purpose? They are hypocrites!” Although California’s law does order schools to offer the curriculum outline in both languages, Santa Ana hasn’t made the Spanish materials available to parents. Hardly an accident, Kira argues, since most of the communities like this one are “whole-heartedly opposed to LGBT-based sex-ed.”

One thing’s for sure: The more radical the social policy, the greater the opportunity for conservatives. Santa Ana’s meeting room was bursting with the latest evidence that Democrats have a huge problem on their hands, especially when it comes to abortion and sex ed. What’s even more insulting, these parents pointed out, is how liberals are purposefully taking advantage of them — deceptively leaving families in the dark because they know “this particular community would absolutely not approve of the more graphic elements.” Not to mention, Kira goes on, “the unmonitored discussions” on gender and sexuality.

Like a lot of other California districts, these parents have reached their boiling point. Tuesday’s meeting was so jam-packed that even the overflow rooms could barely hold the families. Holding signs that read, “No SeXXEd!” moms and dads fended off the ACLU attorneys who’d been farmed out across the state to handle complaints. Later, parents were even more furious to find out that four of the five people who testified in favor of the curriculum didn’t even live in the district!

In between emotional testimonies, Kira was appalled at how condescending board members were, firing back hostile — and at times, demeaning — answers. “As an outside observer, I was terribly vexed by how dismissive and deceptive school authorities were to this particular group of parents. It was clear they did not believe immigrant Hispanic parents were engaged or informed enough to be welcomed into the process.”

“All these people were asking for was a say, a chance to be involved, to be heard and to be active participants in the education of their children. They were asking for respect and instead received nothing but contempt and disrespect from the very people they trust to care for the development of their students.” But, she warns, “If you think this is just another case of ‘whacky’ California paying the price for their ‘whacky’ voting habits, think again. This is coming to a state and a school district near you.”

Are you prepared for that day? Make sure you’ve read FRC’s “A Parent’s Guide to the Transgender Movement in Education” — and share it with your friends.


College Admissions Bribery Scandal Shows How Higher Ed Culture Has Descended Into Signaling

How much is an elite education worth to you? How about $500,000—and a jail sentence?

That’s how much wealthy actresses, business leaders, and financiers have pawned off to bribe their children off to colleges like Stanford University, Yale University, and the University of California.

According to The New York Times, actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli have already been indicted for bribery of athletic recruiters and college counselors, with further arrests coming.

The bribery scheme to get privileged children into elite universities is causing parents and teachers across the country to fume with righteous indignation. But the revelations of corruption in the multibillion-dollar college admissions industry is perhaps more indicative of how Americans’ views of college—especially among the elite—are shifting into dangerous territory.

More Americans no longer value college education for its ability to train their children with the skills needed to thrive in adult life. Instead, they obsess over college’s signaling value—the value of a school’s name and prestige.

One can see this trend amid the booming college consulting industry, where consultants seek to do everything legally possible to get their client’s child into the best-name colleges.

The number of professional college consultants among the nation’s elite has jumped from 2,000 to 5,000 in recent years. Nowadays, 26 percent of the students who got into the 70th percentile or higher on the SAT had some form of private college consulting help.

Economist Bryan Caplan puts this inversion of the goals of higher education more bluntly. Imagine if you could get a degree from Georgetown University without attending any classes. Now imagine you could take every class at Georgetown without getting a degree. Which option would you choose? Most likely, the one that signals value—the former.

The irony is that the signaling value of elite colleges is quite misplaced. According to a paper by mathematician Stacy Dale and economist Alan Krueger, if your child is smart enough to get into an elite college, but chose not to go, he or she will still end up making approximately the same as a similarly qualified applicant who did go to an elite college.

In fact, there is no difference in the earnings of similar-intelligence individuals who go or do not go to Ivy League schools. As usual, it’s the work ethic and intelligence of the student, not the name of the school, that determines long-term adult success.

But elite colleges would rather the parents not know this fact. This is because elite colleges stand to benefit from the misplaced worship of elite parents who prize name-brand schools. They can upcharge their tuition (now above $70,000 a year for Ivy League schools) without worrying about a drop in applications, because an elite education is worth a pretty penny to the status-conscious parents of the new elite. 

With wealthy parents reliably filling the coffers, elite colleges can give less focus to ensuring a quality learning experience for their students. They focus instead on burnishing the surface-level characteristics that keep their names atop the Forbes and U.S. News lists—characteristics like selectivity and diversity. Hiring the best professors becomes secondary to keeping the admission rate below 10 percent and keeping up with the diversity-obsessed zeitgeist.

There is one way parents and students can begin to reverse this national mania for the signaling value of colleges: They can walk away.

What if, instead of spending millions on bribing athletic coaches to fake-recruit their sons and daughters to Stanford’s sailing team, parents devoted their resources to cultivating a love of learning in their children and to providing life lessons in work and moral uprightness? Maybe their children would have the intelligence and ambition, then, to get into Stanford.

Or maybe they wouldn’t get into Stanford. But in the end, that matters much, much less than you think.


Safe and Orderly Schools: Updated Guidance on School Discipline


In December 2018, the Trump administration rescinded the Department of Education’s 2014 “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL), thus returning to local school districts and boards their traditional authority to set discipline policy. Although it was frequently described as “nonbinding guidance,” the DCL was anything but. Instead, the letter advised school districts that they could be found in violation of the Civil Rights Act if students of different groups were disciplined at different rates—even if their rules governing suspensions and expulsions were written and administered fairly. Based on that notion, the Department of Education opened investigations that compelled hundreds of school districts serving millions of students to change their school discipline policies.

The basis for this sweeping federal policy intervention was a set of claims: First, that racial disparities in school discipline—in particular, suspensions and expulsions—were not a function of differences in student behavior. Instead, these disparities were largely driven by adult bias, i.e., by discrimination. Second, that suspensions and expulsions, so-called exclusionary discipline, substantially harm students and fuel a school-to-prison pipeline. And third, that exclusionary discipline can safely be replaced by “restorative” or “positive” methods.

While the DCL is no more, the various claims that Obama administration officials made about school discipline and racial discrimination, including the suspicion cast on public school teachers, are still widely circulated and believed. This is unfortunate, because almost all these claims are based on weak or flawed empirical evidence. As school leaders revisit the rules that they maintain to ensure orderly classrooms and safe learning environments, it is essential that they understand why the federal government’s involvement with local school disciplinary policies was ill-advised—and be guided by better and more rigorous research published after the DCL.


The most rigorous social science suggests that adult bias plays, at best, a minimal role in disciplinary “disproportionality.” Differences in discipline are driven largely by differences in student behavior, and these differences are driven largely by social and economic factors.

Recent, robust research has substantially revised downward reasonable estimates of the negative effects that school suspensions have on students.

There is little basis for claims that “restorative” or “positive” approaches to student misbehavior work, and there is a growing cause for concern that the recent shift away from traditional discipline is doing more harm than good.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Maine K-12 indoctrination sparks populist push back

Lawrence Lockman

Newly-launched "Forgotten Parents Initiative" aims to hold superintendents, school boards accountable

If there were ever any doubt that many teachers in Maine’s K-12 public schools are using their classrooms to indoctrinate students in Leftist politics and ideology, those doubts were blown away during a public hearing at the Statehouse a few weeks ago.

I had long suspected that Leftist indoctrination was fairly common, but the evidence was for the most part sketchy and anecdotal. The accounts of classroom bias were often second- or third-hand reports accusing self-styled “progressive” teachers of taking cheap shots at President Trump or GOP members of Congress.

A news report three years ago seemed to confirm my worst suspicions, and started me down the path to sponsoring legislation earlier this year to impose a Code of Ethics on K-12 teachers.

In December of 2015, an assistant principal at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport posted a racist, anti-Christian comment on his Facebook page.

Get a load of this: “The only terrorists we need to fear are domestic white ‘Christian’ men with easy access to guns. Vote Bernie. That is all. Enjoy your day.”

At the time, I wondered if that sort of Leftist hate speech ever spilled over from the faculty lounge into the classroom. After all, if this guy posted that kind of crap in a public forum on Facebook, what’s going on behind closed doors in the classroom?

He deleted his hateful post after the school was deluged with phone calls and emails. Administrators then circled the wagons around the perpetrator, so he was able to hang onto his job, despite his trifecta of racist, sexist, Christo-phobic hate mongering. Not to mention his overt hostility to the 2nd Amendment.

Fast forward to last month in the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.

A public hearing was held on my bill, LD 589, “Resolve, Directing the State Board of Education to Adopt Rules Prohibiting Teachers in Public Schools from Engaging in Political, Ideological or Religious Advocacy in the Classroom.”

Legislators got an earful from parents who are fed up with their kids being bullied and browbeaten by teachers with an ideological ax to grind. Some of the most egregious abuses occurred last year during the national student walkout that was pushed and promoted by Leftist gun-control advocates.

As previously reported by FrontPage, the committee heard about numerous instances of teachers using their classrooms as taxpayer-funded bully pulpits to spew Leftist propaganda. That unrebutted testimony is now part of the permanent public record.

So I’m not the least bit discouraged by the fact that the bill was killed in committee. Disappointed, yes, in my GOP colleagues on the Education committee, but not discouraged.

And here’s why.

The proposed legislation sparked an outpouring of public support that was so intense even Maine’s lying, dying Fake News industry couldn’t ignore it. The debate in committee on my Code of Ethics bill garnered statewide TV, radio, and newspaper coverage, and generated tons of traffic on social media. It seemed at times like every other parent or grandparent who commented had a horror story to share about partisan bias in the classroom.

We intend to harness that energy and frustration.

My populist/conservative nonprofit Maine First Project has launched the Forgotten Parents Initiative. Our aim is to engage parents at the local level and help them push back against classroom indoctrination. And we’ll be back with another piece of legislation at the earliest opportunity.

FrontPage readers understand that American public schools have produced two generations of graduates steeped in the toxic brew of identity politics. Conservatives are late to the game, or rather, late to the battlefield. But we cannot afford to let another generation of young Americans be marinated in Leftist politics, ideology, pseudo-science, Christo-phobia, and racial scapegoating.

So I would encourage state legislators across the country to join the fray. Work with the David Horowitz Freedom Center on this existentially important project. Then watch what happens when voters discover that a member of the legislative branch of government “gets it.”

We have not yet begun to fight.


No Safe Spaces for Conservative College Students

A majority of these young conservatives find their political views are not welcome on campus.

OneClass conducted a recent survey of more than 1,500 students from 207 schools, finding that 55% of students who identified as Republican said their political beliefs were not welcome on campus, whereas only 16% of Democrat students felt their political views were unwelcome. Furthermore, the polling showed that 37.5% of Republicans did not feel safe expressing their political views, which was “three times more” than Democrat students.

In writing about the polls, Jerry Zheng noted, “The fear of being cast with damning labels and feeling ostracized is genuine for conservatives on campus. It’s also why 55.1% of Republicans are closet conservatives who don’t tend to share their political orientation with their friends. For Democrats, being part of a college campus that mostly shares their views could be what contributes to feeling accepted in inner and wider circles.”

And if recent history is any indication, conservative students do have reason to be wary, after a leftist attacked a conservative on the campus of UC Berkeley, just to note one example. Thankfully, physical violence is not the norm on America’s college and university campus. However, the survey confirms that students are increasingly subjected to a blatant anti-conservative bias from both fellow students and, more significantly, from school faculty and administration — which, by the way, tilt 10-1 leftist. OneClass’s survey seems to further support the findings of Harvard’s 2017 poll of Americans age 18 to 29, which revealed that only 25% felt safe sharing their Republican views on campus.

Far from celebrating actual diversity — the diversity of thought — the American college-campus culture is fast becoming a homogeneous blend of a postmodern, neo-Marxist ethics in which only leftist dogma is allowed to be freely confessed. Any counter perspective is seen as threatening and must be silenced.


Something's Wrong When the Diploma Is Worth More Than the Education
The college admissions scandal should be the populist issue of our time.

Most of the talk in our politics about how “the system is rigged” is incredibly abstract and symbolic. But this is infuriatingly concrete.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department revealed a massive effort by wealthy parents and a shady “admissions consultant” to bribe and cheat their way into getting kids into a slew of elite schools.

Prosecutors say William Singer, the ringleader of the operation, sold two forms of services. For tens of thousands of dollars, parents could pay for their kids to have a proctor correct their incorrect answers as they took the SAT. Or, if that wouldn’t do the trick, parents could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe coaches at elite schools to designate applicants as desired athletes, thus circumventing the minimum requirements for grades and test scores.

In one case, a California family allegedly paid $1.2 million to Singer, who in turn allegedly paid Rudy Meredith, the women’s soccer coach at Yale, $400,000 to claim that the family’s daughter was a coveted recruit even though she didn’t play at all.

This scandal is a staggering indictment of higher education, and American education policy generally. Virtually every constituency in American life has good reason to be rankled. Defenders of affirmative action for various minority groups are rightly livid about this effort, by mostly rich white people who already have every advantage imaginable, to game the system. Opponents of affirmative action who argue that merit alone should determine admissions have every reason to be outraged as well.

For both groups, and for everyone between the two extremes, the pressure to get kids into the best college possible — and then figure out how to pay for it — is a source of incredible anxiety.

But the scandal goes beyond just these issues. It is also a searing indictment of the value of an elite college education in the first place (and the ridiculous emphasis schools place on collegiate sports). None of these parents seemed remotely concerned about whether their kids could hack it once they got into their dream schools — and rightly so.

George Mason economics professor Bryan Caplan, in his book “The Case Against Education,” makes a compelling case that most of the value in diplomas from elite colleges isn’t in the education they allegedly represent but in the cultural or social “signaling” they convey.

Imagine you’re deposited on a desert island, forced to fend for yourself. Would you rather have the knowledge that comes with taking a survival training course, or just the piece of paper that says you took the course? Obviously, you’d rather know how to identify poisonous plants and sources of water than have a diploma that says you know how to do things you can’t do. Now, ask yourself: Would you rather have the Yale education without the diploma, or the diploma without the education?

From an economic perspective, the piece of paper is vastly more valuable than the education, particularly in the humanities (and Caplan runs through the numbers to demonstrate this). The paper opens doors and gets you callbacks from employers and entree into elite social circles where who you know matters more than what you know. The education might make you a better person, but the parchment is the ticket to opportunity. It’s no guarantee of success, but it’s a profound hedge against failure.

Parents know this, and parents without special advantages — wealth, fame, connections — resent it.

As a matter of public policy, the way we tell everyone they should go to college, even if it means incurring crushing debt, is a scandal. College isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t necessary for many careers or vocations — and shouldn’t be necessary for many others.

If there’s a maxim that should serve as a golden rule for policymakers, it’s this: Complexity is a subsidy. The more complex we make a system, the more it rewards people with the resources — social, cognitive, political or financial — to navigate them. A system that rewards subjective priorities — in the name of diversity, athletics, social justice, donations, preferences for legacy students, whatever — creates opportunities for bureaucrats, parents and students to game the system.

You’re never going to create a system where some parents won’t do anything and everything to help their kids. All you can do is create a system that makes it more difficult to cheat or exploit loopholes. That requires clear, simple rules applicable to everyone.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Why Elites Dislike Standardized Testing

On Tuesday, March 12 2019, federal prosecutors exposed a crooked college admissions consulting operation that bribed SAT administrators and college athletic coaches in order to get wealthy, underqualified applicants into elite universities. Also charged were 33 wealthy parents who had paid for admissions bribes, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, Gordon Caplan, a co-chair of the international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, and Douglas Hodge, the former chief executive of Pimco.

As this story unfolds, there will be numerous takes and analyses about what the exposure of such widespread corruption in college admissions could mean. People are going to say that this scandal is proof that the meritocracy is broken and corrupt. And it’s likely that many commentators will use this event as an opportunity to attack the SAT and the ACT. Progressives view test-based admissions as inequitable because some marginalized groups are significantly underrepresented among the pool of top-scoring college applicants. But millionaires and elites also hate standardized admissions tests, because their children’s admission to top colleges is contingent upon test scores.

Under pressure from both the academic left and wealthy parents, hundreds of colleges have become “test optional,” allowing students to submit applications without test scores. Some elite schools, including Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr and the University of Chicago have adopted these policies.

It is absolutely true that the SAT is the reason this scandal occurred. But for standardized testing requirements, the millionaires and celebrities charged in this scheme would not have needed to search for “side doors” to get their children into elite colleges; they could have walked right in through the front.

Here’s what arguments against testing look like

A short viral Twitter thread from actress, playwright and screenwriter Zoe Kazan, which amassed over 20,000 likes, indicates one way this scandal will be used to attack meritocracy:

without that systemic leg up, i doubt i would have gotten into yale, from which i graduated with honors etc. i was exactly the same applicant pre & post tutoring. i just looked different on paper. well aware most of my peers’ families could not afford to give them that advantage.

— zoe kazan (@zoeinthecities) March 12, 2019

not saying it’s the same AT ALL as breaking the law/bribing/etc. but let’s not pretend money isn’t helping kids get into college all the time, in ways big & small. even if one’s parents didn’t, say, give 2.5 million to one’s college of choice:

— zoe kazan (@zoeinthecities) March 12, 2019

Zoe Kazan is a talented writer, and in three short tweets here, she manages to:

* Remind everyone that she went to Yale and graduated with honors from its theatre program,

* Check her privilege by acknowledging that she would not have been admitted to Yale if she hadn’t had the resources to pay for an expensive SAT tutor who helped raise her math score 200 points,

* Suggest that her Yale classmates who got in on the basis of stellar SAT scores also owe their admission to privilege, rather than extraordinary aptitude or effort, and

* Dunk on Jared Kushner, who was famous for buying admission to Harvard long before his father-in-law was elected president.

Zoe’s arguments don’t hold up, however, and her experience is actually a perfect encapsulation of why standardized tests are so important, and why it is necessary to defend the meritocracy against assaults from elites who would prefer not to have to participate in a competitive admissions process.

This argument falls apart on examination

Opponents of tests like to argue that tests primarily measure socioeconomic status and parental resources, but it’s not true that rich parents unfairly distort the college admissions process by outspending other people on test prep. There’s not a clear causal relationship between income and test scores, and there’s no evidence that expensive test prep gets better results than cheap or free alternatives.

According to data released by The College Board, the median SAT test taker in 2013 scored a 496 on the SAT’s critical reading section and a 514 on the math. The median student whose family earns less than $20,000 will score a 435 on the critical reading section and a 462 on math, considerably below average. Students from families earing $60,000-80,000 perform similarly to the overall distribution, and median scores continue to rise about 10 points for every marginal $20,000 of family income. The median student from a family earning more than $200,000 per year scores a 565 on critical reading and a 586 on math. The richest students perform a little more than half a standard deviation above average, while the poorest perform a bit more than half a standard deviation below.

But while it’s true that higher-income students get better scores on average and lower-income students do worse, it doesn’t necessarily follow that money raises test scores. This is a mere correlation, and, as anyone who did well on the SAT knows, correlation doesn’t imply causation.

SAT scores correlate strongly enough with IQ that the SAT is interchangeable with IQ as a test of general cognitive ability. Cognitive ability is highly heritable; the single strongest predictor of a child’s IQ is the IQ of the child’s parents. There is also a correlation between income and IQ. That means smarter than average parents are likely to have smarter than average kids and higher than average incomes.

The educational attainment of an SAT taker’s parents is about as strongly correlated with higher scores as high income is; the median student whose parents hold graduate degrees scores a 560 on critical reading and a 576 on math, only slightly lower than the richest students in the dataset by income, and a full standard deviation higher than students whose parents hold only high school diplomas.

There’s also little support for the contention that inequalities in access to test prep is the mechanism by which richer students secure their advantage.

It is true that prep can help; working practice tests can help students get comfortable with the tested concepts and get familiar with the test format and the way the test writers reason. Practicing can also improve the speed at which testers can work the problems, and help them become more confident and comfortable taking the test.

However, it has never been true that poorer students lack access to test prep; most students prepare for the SAT, and high quality materials and practice questions drawn from old tests have been available in inexpensive test-prep books for decades. In 2015 the College Board partnered with Kahn Academy to provide free online test prep resources, and about 60% of test takers now utilize the free official test-prep resources.

Despite what commercial test prep companies might claim in their marketing materials, there is no evidence that expensive commercial prep materials or private tutoring yield better results than test prep with inexpensive practice materials or the free official online resources.

It’s worth noting that the scores most rich kids and most children of highly educated parents earn are still far too low to get into elite colleges. The median child from a family earning $200,000 scores an 1151, which puts you in the bottom half of the admitted class at a school like Ole Miss or University of Alabama, and is far short of the 1500 earned by the median student who enrols at Yale.

If rich people could just spend their way to high test scores, then they wouldn’t be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe their way into elite schools.

Zoe Kazan checks her privilege, but not all of it

While her assertions about money and access to expensive test prep don’t stand up to scrutiny, it’s particularly ridiculous for Zoe Kazan to claim that the primary privilege factor — the “systemic leg up” — that secured her Yale admission was her ability to pay for SAT tutoring.

Zoe Kazan’s parents are Hollywood writer/director Nicholas Kazan and screenwriter Robin Swicord. Nicholas’s father — Zoe’s grandfather — was legendary director Elia Kazan, who made On the Waterfront, East of Eden and A Streetcar Named Desire. Elia Kazan’s wife was the playwright Molly Day Thacher. Elia and Molly met while they were students at Yale, and Molly was, as it happens, the granddaughter of the revered Yale professor and administrator Thomas Anthony Thacher, who was a descendant of the Rev. Thomas Buckingham of Saybrook, one of Yale’s founders.

Legacy applicants — the children or grandchildren of alumni — get an admissions advantage worth about 160 SAT points. By contrast, the median student with a family income over $200,000 scores about 140 points higher than the median student in the overall dataset. Another way to describe the legacy advantage is that legacies get in if they can score at the 95th percentile, while unhooked applicants must score above the 99th percentile.  But “legacy” is insufficient to describe Zoe Kazan’s pedigree. She’s something closer to royalty at Yale. When an applicant like this comes before an admissions committee, they will be very motivated to admit her.

What is extraordinary is that she almost didn’t get in. The test score bar is much lower for special cases like hers, but there’s still a bar, and she had to struggle and cram and hire an expensive tutor to get over it, and she had to sweat out her college admission just like the rest of us. And there are other applicants who are the children and grandchildren of exalted and famous families who can’t get their scores high enough, and they don’t get in, and that means there are more seats at schools like Yale that are available to the rest of us.

You can tell an objective, meritocratic system is working when it pushes out people that the establishment would prefer to admit (people like Zoe Kazan), and it admits the people that the establishment would prefer to reject (Jews and Asians). It is phenomenal that CEOs and power brokers and celebrities are getting indicted for desperately trying to bribe someone to get their mediocre kids into good schools, because that means meritocratic systems are throwing barriers in front of the children of elites when they can’t compete on an objective test.

There’s a reason Zoe is attacking the SAT rather other controversial aspects of the college admissions process like the preferential treatment of legacies: Testing impedes the success of people like her.  If Yale goes test-optional, what else is there in the admissions portfolio that could possibly scuttle the application of somebody like Zoe Kazan? When millionaires and celebrities attack the testing establishment, they pretend to do so on behalf of the marginalized and disadvantaged, but they really want to destroy the SAT because it is the only mechanism by which your kid can get into an elite college ahead of their kid.  Even if you assume, for the purpose of argument, that Zoe Kazan is right in her claim that standardized tests give “a systemic leg up” to “upper middle class” applicants who can afford commercial prep services, what is the alternative?

Without some semblance of competitive admissions based on objective criteria like standardized test scores, a college like Yale becomes an exclusive nightclub and the admissions committee is just a bouncer. People like Zoe Kazan — the children of senators and governors and CEOs and celebrities — get to walk right in. They’re on the VIP list. And the rest of us have to wait our turn for the bouncer to look us over and subjectively decide if we’re cool enough or hot enough.


UPDATE:  A reader writes that affirmative action is also a big fraud that gets unqualified people into college:

"As always, those condemning “the rich” for buying admission to elite colleges for their low-performing children don’t ‘get it”.

As always, “legal crime” (tax evasion by a few of “the rich”) pales in comparison to “legal” crime (after all, mass executions by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others) were “legal”.

How can the loss of a few million (perhaps billions) in tax revenue from “the rich” compare to the “lost revenue” from the trillions wasted on “college admissions” of “the disadvantaged” low performers?

Yet many of these “special admissions” are at the expense of taxes (Pell grants, for example) and “free tuition” for “the poor”, despite low performance?

And what about all the taxes spent in tracking down “fraud”?"

Is it fair that wealthy people can pay their kids’ way into college? No. But that’s often how it works

For prices up to $1.5 million, parents can buy a five-year, full-service package of college admissions consulting from a company in New York City called Ivy Coach.

The service — all of it legal — begins as early as eighth grade, as students are steered toward picking the right classes and extracurriculars to help them stand out from the crowd. Then comes intensive preparation for the SAT or ACT, both “coachable exams,” explained Brian Taylor, the company’s managing director, followed by close editing of college essays.

“Is that unfair? That the privileged can pay?” Mr. Taylor asked.

“Yes. But that’s how the world works.”

The fallout from the college admissions scandal announced by federal prosecutors this week was just beginning for the accused on Wednesday. Wealthy parents charged in the case began surrendering to the authorities. And consequences also loomed for the students, as the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California, both of which had athletic coaches named in the indictment, vowed to punish anyone connected to the scheme.

The government’s indictments of dozens of parents, college administrators and coaches exposed an ugly array of corrupt and illegal admissions practices.

But there is also a perfectly legal world of gaming the college admissions process by doing everything from picking advanced classes, choosing the right sport, giving donations and turning to the multibillion-dollar industry of test prep, college essay editing and advice on how to produce the perfect application.

Every aspect of a teenager’s life can be managed and shaped into a persona catered to please the exacting eye of a college admissions officer. Parents might pay $300 for a standard, hourlong consultation with an admissions expert or donate tens of millions to schools, with the hope of winning special consideration for their child’s bid for a spot at a top school.

Revelations about these practices, sometimes only whispered about, risks breeding more cynicism toward American higher education at a time when elite college admissions are already under the microscope, with multiple schools facing inquiries into their affirmative action and legacy admission policies.

And they reveal the degree to which parents up and down the income ladder have become fixated on college acceptance as a ticket to their child’s financial security.

“Private college consulting is almost like the wild West,” said Alexis Redding, a visiting scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has written about the “extreme pressure” the college admissions race can put on students and families.

Many colleges in recent years have made standardized test scores optional for students applying for admission, an acknowledgment that test scores can simply be a reflection of how much families are willing to spend on tutoring.

Removing the emphasis on the tests is one limited way schools are trying to expand access to students who can’t afford pricey help.

While many consultants adhere to optional ethical guidelines set out by national professional associations, some consultants do not, Professor Redding said.

The federal indictment “isn’t surprising to anyone who has either studied the high stakes world of private admissions or private consulting,” she said. “The scale and details and celebrity are surprising.”

With the many legal means to seek preferential treatment for one’s offspring, the Hollywood stars and business moguls named in Tuesday’s indictment seemingly had other ways to exert influence over the process.

But in recent years the costs of pursuing special treatment for an application have moved beyond comfortable reach even for the rich. A donation to an Ivy-caliber school would have to be valued at $10 million or more to earn an applicant truly special consideration beyond their merits, according to several experienced college admissions consultants.

Steven Mercer, a private college consultant based in Santa Monica, Calif., called $10 million “an entry-level gift that might not even get the attention of the admission office.” He added, “You have to sometimes go quite a bit higher.”

Mr. Taylor of Ivy Coach agreed that even after a $10 million gift, a student’s application would not be greeted with “no questions asked.” “It’s not guaranteed,” he said.

Certainty appears to be what parents were seeking when they hired William Singer, the consultant who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice. “I created a guarantee,” Mr. Singer said in a Boston courtroom.

In conversations with parents recorded by federal authorities, Mr. Singer styled his services as a first-class cabin for tech titans, rich investors and other luminaries trying to lock down a scarce spot at a prized school, such as Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.

Court papers said he promised to slot them in as athletes — with fabricated or embellished records — and on schools’ “V.I.P. lists.”

Shaping a persona to please an admissions officer is big business.

According to court papers, Mr. Singer also promised parents that their children would get an ACT score in the 30s, or a 1400 or better SAT score.

Consultants who abide by the law can never offer a promise of admission to a specific school, said Mr. Taylor of Ivy Coach, no matter how much they charge or how much a parent is willing to donate.

“If they tip you off that they have connections with admissions officers, that’s a red flag,” he said.

Ivy Coach students sign and submit their own applications, according to Mr. Taylor. He said the fact that Mr. Singer was submitting applications on behalf of his clients was “a mark of unscrupulousness in and of itself.”

In some cases, according to federal prosecutors, Mr. Singer and parents conspired to reduce the role of school guidance counselors in the process, since those counselors knew the students’ true academic and athletic records.

Mr. Singer even falsified some students’ ethnicities, according to the authorities. Some families and students perceive their racial backgrounds can hurt or aid their chances of getting in to schools that consider race in their admissions decisions.

Accusations of untoward behavior, short of lawbreaking, are not uncommon in the world of high-priced admissions consulting.

The large size of Ivy Coach’s fees caused them to be kicked out of one industry association.

Mr. Taylor called the association’s decision “un-American.” “Who can say what is too much in America?” he said. “If someone wants to pay a fee that you command, they have that right.”

Some students said they had mixed feelings about their experiences with consultants.

Alex Cui, 20, said his parents, Chinese immigrants living in Toronto, spent $15,000 on a college consulting firm that advertised in Chinese-language magazines and newspapers, offering an Ivy League entry to immigrant parents anxious to get their children into good colleges. Mr. Cui said their investment bought him a three-day college admissions workshop at a hotel conference room, plus regular meetings with a private admissions consultant who recommended which extracurriculars to pursue and which to discard to build a personal narrative for his applications.

But Mr. Cui said the consultant was relentlessly critical about topics like Mr. Cui’s college entrance essay — about his experiences at the International Chemistry Olympiad — and caused Mr. Cui so much stress that he stopped meeting with him halfway through his 12th-grade year. He was accepted to the California Institute of Technology, where he is now a sophomore majoring in computer science.

He said his college counseling was probably not worth the $15,000. “It was just a lot of criticism that was not helpful,” he said.

Professor Redding of Harvard said she worried that the attention on the case this week would cast a negative light on the entire college consulting industry, which, she added, had taken strides in recent years to police itself. “There are lots of good actors here who get overshadowed in a case like this,” she said.

The education consultants industry has tens of thousands of practitioners, serving both students and schools, according to the research group IBISWorld, which estimated the sector’s annual revenue in 2018 at $1.9 billion.

Stefanie Niles, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said the allegations were an “extreme response to the commodification of the college admission process.”

The growth of private consulting has been driven, in part, by a shortage of guidance counselors in public schools. During the 2015 to 2016 school year, each public school counselor was responsible for an average of 470 students, according to the group.

There is a wide range of prices in the field. In Boca Raton, Fla., Naomi Steinberg runs a “super premium boutique” where the yearslong college planning process often starts in ninth grade and can end up costing families $10,000 to $15,000. “You’re trying to make sense of a system that can’t be made sense of,” she said.

Mr. Mercer, the Santa Monica consultant, works within the mainstream of the field: He charges between $300 and $7,000, depending on a student’s needs and how early in the process he is hired. He previously worked in the admissions office at the University of Southern California, and said he was shocked that the school was included in the federal indictment.

While the extreme behavior detailed by federal prosecutors this week could breed concern among families who intend to play by the rules, Mr. Mercer says his message to clients will remain the same: that the name brand of a college is far less important than finding a good fit for a student.

Still, he acknowledged, “Such outrageous amounts of money and the persons involved and the schemes? It isn’t just a little blip.  It’s embarrassing to those of us in the field.”


UK: 'Maths anxiety' may be fuelling a national crisis, researchers say

“Maths anxiety” may be fuelling a national crisis, Cambridge University researchers have said, as they find that one in ten children suffer from “despair and rage” at the subject.

The number of children who experience maths anxiety is a “real concern”, according to academics from Cambridge’s Faculty of Education and its Centre for Neuroscience.

Researchers surveyed 1,700 British pupils aged eight to 13 about their feelings towards the subject.

They found that ten per cent of children suffered from maths anxiety, meaning they had “overwhelming negative emotions” towards the subject, ranging “from rage to despair”.

Other emotions triggered by maths included feelings of apprehension, tension and frustration, while physical symptoms included butterflies, a racing heart or struggling to catch breath.

The phenomenon of maths anxiety is characterised as a “general sense of feeling the subject is hard compared with other subjects”, leading to a subsequent lack or loss of confidence. 

“The project investigated individuals’ attitudes towards mathematics because of what could be referred to as a ‘mathematics crisis’ in the UK,” researchers said. 

“Many children and adults experience feelings of anxiety, apprehension, tension or discomfort when they are confronted by mathematics. This may be contributing to a relatively  low level of numeracy amongst UK adults.” 

 More than three-quarters of children with high levels of maths anxiety are normal to high achievers
More than three-quarters of children with high levels of maths anxiety are normal to high achievers
The proportion of adults with functional maths skills equivalent to a GCSE grade C has dropped from 26 per cent in 2003 to only 22 per cent in 2011, according to the charity National Numeracy. Meanwhile, 57 per cent achieved the equivalent in functional literacy skills.

Dr Denes Szucs, deputy director at Cambridge’s Centre for Neuroscience in Education and one of the report’s authors, said that there is a widespread misunderstanding that only low performing children suffer from maths anxiety.

“This is actually a very frequent misconception that we have seen in decision makers,” he said. “They automatically assume people are anxious about maths because they are poor achievers.”

In fact, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of children with high levels of maths anxiety are normal to high achievers. 

Dr Szucs went on: “Probably their maths anxiety will go unnoticed because their performance is good. But they are very anxious and in the long term their performance is suppressed.

“This is a real danger here: these are children who are completely able to do maths at a normal level, but may keep away from it because they feel anxious.”

The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also found that girls have higher levels of maths anxiety than boys. Students who have the condition face a vicious circle, with their anxiety leading to poorer performance and poorer performance increasing anxiety. Maths anxiety is present from a young age, researchers found, but can develop as the child grows.

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation which funded the research, said: “Mathematical achievement is valuable in its own right, as a foundation for many other subjects and as an important predictor of future academic outcomes, employment opportunities and even health.

“Maths anxiety can severely disrupt students’ performance in the subject in both primary and secondary school.

“But importantly - and surprisingly - this new research suggests that the majority of students experiencing maths anxiety have normal to high maths ability.”


Monday, March 18, 2019

Book review: "The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money"

Author:  Bryan Caplan

Reviewer:     Jenna A. Robinson

I don’t want Bryan Caplan to be right. For many years, I have worked to reform higher education in the belief that the system is broken but ultimately repairable. Caplan’s new book, The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, says otherwise.

Caplan’s basic premise, that our sprawling system of secondary and postsecondary education is largely wasteful, is hard to swallow. What about the fascinating courses? The brilliant lecturers? The breakthrough scientific innovations? The towering libraries filled with the history and insight of the many scholars who have gone before? Surely all of this wouldn’t exist without good reason.

And what about the relentless rush of data showing that, on average, college graduates earn significantly more money than high school graduates? And that high school graduates, in turn, vastly out-earn their peers who dropped out of high school? The data and the conventional wisdom apparently agree that education, if approached seriously, is a worthwhile investment.

Caplan debunks or incorporates these arguments, as relevant, with his theory of signaling. College, he says, is mostly a signal to employers that a graduate is intelligent, conscientious, and conformist. Employers value these traits. Thus, they pay more for employees who have successfully completed a degree than for those who have not. “The labor market doesn’t pay you for the useless subjects you master,” Caplan says; “it pays you for the preexisting traits you reveal by mastering them” (p. 13).

Caplan is careful to say that education is not exclusively a signal. He admits that there is some element of human-capital creation that explains the high returns to education. In particular, he notes that statistics and econometrics are useful in many data-driven occupations as well as in everyday reasoning and that the simple reading, writing, and arithmetic learned in elementary school are necessary basics for almost all future learning and working.

But his critics maintain that education is mostly human-capital creation—that is, education pays because students learn real skills valued in the market. Caplan uses a simple question to demonstrate the difference between the two competing theories. “Imagine this stark dilemma: you can have either a Princeton education without a diploma, or a Princeton diploma without an education. Which gets you further in the job market?” (p. 27).

Any sane person would choose the degree without the education. That’s because a degree from Princeton will open the doors of the job market. It is the degree, not the education, that confers the many benefits of college matriculation: more money, prestige, and career stability. After all, Caplan points out, a Princeton education is already free. Anyone can show up to Princeton courses—but their work won’t be graded or credited.

Caplan also provides data to further bolster his claims—too much to include it all here. He shows that the most lucrative years of education are those that are accompanied by a credential. The rewards for completing a single year of high school, Caplan observes, are not uniform. Completing the senior year is far more valuable than completing the freshman, sophomore, or junior years. The same is true for college. Caplan calls this credential correlation “the sheepskin effect” and explains the data: “High school graduation has a big [pay] spike: twelfth grade pays more than grades 9, 10, and 11 combined. In percentage terms, the average study finds graduation is worth 3.4 regular years. College graduation has a huge spike: senior year of college pays over twice as much as freshman, sophomore, and junior years combined” (p. 98).

(Incidentally, this is why students with some college but no degree are among the most likely to default on their student loans. They have incurred some of the costs but almost none of the visible benefits of higher education. Employers treat them almost as if they never attended college at all.)

In addition to amassing evidence for signaling, Caplan thoroughly debunks the idea that formal education significantly contributes to human-capital creation for most students. He cites evidence on the failed transfer of learning, the lack of durable improvements from education, and the abysmal results of college graduates on various measurements of critical thinking.

For example, he shows that first-year and fourth-year college students score the same on tests of informal reasoning; that evidence attributing IQ increases to extra years of schooling are conflating measured intelligence with genuine intelligence; and that schools teach very few job skills that employers actually find useful. The data are impressive—and interesting. Caplan concludes, “[H]uman capital purism looks not just overstated, but Orwellian. Most of what schools teach has no value in the labor market. Students fail to learn most of what they’re taught. Adults forget most of what they learn. When you mention these awkward facts, educators speak to you of miracles: studying anything makes you better at everything. Never mind educational psychologists’ century of research exposing these miracles as soothing myths” (p. 68).

These data shouldn’t be shocking to anyone interested in higher-education reform. They doubtless already know that college students show little improvement on standardized tests from freshman to senior year, know little of the scientific method, and routinely fail man-on-the-street interviews on simple civics questions. What’s more, college students themselves intuitively understand signaling. That’s why they skip class, search around for professors who give easy A’s, and cram for tests instead of committing the material to long-term memory. They know it’s the degree that matters to future employers, not the content of their courses.

From this sobering evidence, Caplan concludes that although there are considerable personal benefits to ever-increasing years of education (which he painstakingly measures), there are no corresponding societal benefits (also painstakingly measured). In fact, there are significant costs. That’s because most of the information provided by signaling is mere redistribution: “If education boosts compensation solely by raising worker productivity, society’s gain equals the worker’s gain; if education boosts compensation solely by revealing worker productivity, society gains far less. For most purposes, in fact, society gains zero” (p. 167). Education is a very expensive process for revealing worker productivity—and much of it falls on the taxpayer.

Caplan maintains that education either reveals individuals’ tendencies toward behaviors that benefit society (e.g., tendencies against criminal activity or toward political participation) or changes individuals’ rankings relative to others with whom they are competing. The purported health effects of education fall into the latter category. Caplan posits that the positive effect on health is a covert effect of status on health. He observes: “Insofar as schooling makes you healthier by raising your status, its health benefits are zero-sum: you can’t raise your rank without dragging others down” (p. 171). Again, of course, Caplan painstakingly measures and documents it all.

In short, extra years of education do confer some benefits. Students do learn some useful skills. But most of the process is an enormously wasteful shifting of resources from some groups of people to others.

Caplan concludes his arguments with an almost heretical prescription: “we need lots less education” (p. 195). Perhaps a modified version would read: we need “lots less formal education” or “lots less schooling.” Caplan’s prescription stands in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom and even most books by educational reformers—who conclude that we still need formal education, but that we’re doing it all wrong.

But Caplan’s data are compelling. The theory of signaling aligns with much that we know to be true about higher education. And even if signaling explains only half of the so-called gains from education, it offers reason enough to examine the whole system. After reading and reviewing the book, I am a convert.

Anyone interested in the economy, the workforce, or education policy would do well to pick up Caplan’s book but should be prepared to confront all of their former assumptions.


UK: Private school pupils who take IGCSEs have better chance of getting top marks, exam watchdog admits

IGCSEs follow a  more traditional curriculum

Private school pupils who take IGCSEs have a better chance of getting top marks, the exam watchdog has admitted.

Roger Taylor, the chair of Ofqual, said it is a “problem” that a far higher proportion of children get As and A*s in iGCSEs – the majority of which are taken by those at fee-paying schools - compared to their state educated peers who have sat the reformed GCSEs.

He told the education select committee that this is a “disturbing” issue within the exam system, and agreed that it reinforces the privileges of children whose families can afford to pay for private school fees. 

Originally, private schools opted for iGCSEs as they saw GCSEs as too easy and not sufficient preparation for A level.

However, in a bid to make GCSEs more rigorous, the ministers overhauled the qualifications by removing most coursework and introducing a numerical grading system.

Earlier this year, research published by Education Datalab showed that two thirds of pupils achieved grade A* and A in IGCSEs in maths and English language, while just 18 to 20 per cent achieved the equivalent grades in reformed GCSEs.

Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, said it is a “scandal” and an “outrage” that children at private schools who win top grades in their iGCSEs are looked on more favourably by universities and employers who cannot tell the difference between these exams and GCSEs.

Mr Taylor said that the difference can – at least in part – be explained by privately educated children generally having higher levels of attainment than children at state schools.

He said that iGCSES are not "systematically easier" than the reformed GCSEs. But since they are not regulated in the same way it means there is a “risk” that a “particular subject in a particular year will be easier and we don't have the mechanisms to do anything about that”.

GCSEs are regulated by Ofqual, which uses a statistical method called "comparable outcomes" to ensure that roughly the same proportion of pupils will be awarded each grade as in previous years.

Meanwhile, IGCSEs are not regulated by Ofqual, meaning that the number of top grades handed out are not in any way restricted.

Mr Taylor agreed with Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the education select committee, that currently there is not a “level playing field” between private and state school pupils. 

He said the best solution would be for iGCSEs to be renamed, and said the Ofqual has examined “legal routes” to address this. Mr Taylor added: “This is a situation that is not really conducive to public trust in the examination system. It is a problem. We obviously are monitoring this and have researched this because it is an area of concern.”

Labour committee member Ian Mearns said that there is a feeling that the current set up is “inherently unfair” on state school students.

Mr Taylor replied: "I think this is precisely why this is such a disturbing issue in terms of the fairness of the system. Because it is used in one sector of the education system and not in another."

Mr Halfon said: "Basically, what we are saying is that if you are wealthy enough to afford to go to private school, not only that, you're going to get an easier exam, which is called the same name and recognised by employers.

"But if you're not wealthy, you go to state school and do a higher quality, higher standard exam that is called GCSE, and you get potentially lower grades even though that person from private school is getting all those advantages."

Mr Taylor said he agrees with this analysis, but added that private schools are allowed to teach whichever qualifications they want so they are not breaking any rules.


College Was Already Rigged

The FBI dropped a new bombshell on Tuesday, and this time the scandal is Russian-free. Dozens of wealthy parents, including notable celebrities, were charged in a college admissions scandal and accused of paying a total of $25 million in payments to cheat their children into school.

According to Politico, “parents paid a college counseling test prep business in Newport Beach, Calif., called ‘The Key’, which bribed college coaches and administrators and organized a scheme to help students cheat on college entrance exams, including the ACT and SAT.”

It is disappointing that these parents would resort to such measures to ensure that their children get into elite colleges. But Americans should not be surprised that the system is broken. It always has been, and working-class Americans are paying for it.

Take, for example, our student loan system.

For the most part, students who earn bachelor’s degrees have higher lifetime earnings than students with only a high school degree. So why have lawmakers promulgated policies like loan forgiveness, the in-school interest subsidy, and even “free” college, to remove financial responsibility from the elite one-third of Americans who obtain the highly sought-after bachelor’s degree?

The hardworking two-thirds of Americans who have bypassed this system altogether should not have to absorb the cost for students who are far more likely to achieve high career earnings.

These policies fuel the troublesome trend of degree inflation. It is true that higher levels of education indicate higher levels of earnings, and some may argue that this is because a college degree equips students with the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. But it appears increasingly apparent that the simple attainment of a degree carries far more weight than the actual attainment of knowledge or marketable skills.

The signaling that occurs when a student obtains a degree tells employers that they have followed through on their education, but says little about their human capital development.

While most would not put it in so many words, this is a phenomenon that most Americans, including the wealthy parents wrapped up in this scandal, are well aware of.

As George Mason University’s Bryan Caplan has noted, if average students were presented with this scenario: You can either receive a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University without going to a single class, or you can take classes at Georgetown but you walk away without the degree, most Americans would pick the former option, rather than the latter.

This is because most Americans with a small amount of motivation and an internet connection can seek out alternative means for obtaining career knowledge outside of the classroom. However, getting your foot in the door without a college degree is another story.

This admissions scandal should cause all Americans to rethink the system they are paying into. Celebrities such as Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were able to cheat the system because of their elite celebrity status and high financial capital.

This is not the system President Lyndon Johnson sought in his vision for a “Great Society.” His hope was to grant all Americans, regardless of socio-economic status, a pathway to the American dream.

Instead, higher education in America today embodies a system that shackles American students and taxpayers alike with high student loan debt, and fails to create a proper education-to-workforce pipeline that enables graduates to pay down their loans.

American taxpayers should not have to spend roughly $75 billion per year on a broken system. Furthermore, students and taxpayers should not suffer under $1.5 trillion in student loan debt for degrees of questionable value.

In order to reinstate academic integrity in the higher education system, lawmakers should eliminate policies that favor the elite at the expense of working-class Americans. Loan forgiveness and “free college” only serve to pour money into a broken system that perpetuates elitism at the expense of working Americans and other viable pathways to upward mobility.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Pupils to learn about paedophiles in British primary school lessons with classes starting for children aged just four years old amid internet safety fears

Primary school children are to be taught how to escape grooming by online sexual predators.

It comes amid warnings of an explosion in child sex crimes on the internet, with web paedophiles encouraging the abuse of ‘very, very young’ children.

Now pupils between the ages of four and seven will be taught how to recognise the signs of online abuse, blackmail and manipulation.

The National Crime Agency campaign – which takes the form of an animated cartoon series – marks the first time it has specifically targeted four-year-olds.

Rob Jones, of the NCA, said it was still ‘easy’ for paedophiles to access indecent images of children on the open web.

He said: ‘The technology exists to detect known child abuse images. It is a constant battle but the scale of that battle and the scale of the response really needs to go up to meet the trajectory of the threat.’

In 2017, there were about 10 million reports of child abuse images being viewed online globally.

Last year, that rose to a staggering 18 million. It is believed about 110,000 reports relate to paedophiles in Britain.

An increasing number of child abuse images are generated by the victims themselves, either by children who don’t know they will end up in the hands of paedophiles, or those who have been manipulated into taking them.

The NCA cartoon shows a four-year-old girl called Jessie watching a video on an iPad alone after her dad is distracted by a phone call.

While she enjoys the first video – a song about internet safety – she is soon faced with a scary second video.

Her pet dog convinces her to tell an adult she trusts that she had seen something online that had made her feel ‘worried, scared or sad’.


Coming Home From College
Every year, many thousands of American parents find that the son or daughter they sent to college has been transformed by college into a leftist. For left-wing parents, this may be a blessing, but for parents who are not leftist — not to mention conservative — it is often painfully jolting.

It is jolting because their beloved child now holds America in contempt; prefers socialism to capitalism; regards all white people and police as racist; believes the Bible, Christianity and Judaism are not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense; no longer believes men and women are inherently different — or even that male and female objectively exist; is disinterested in getting married and having children; believes the president of the United States is a fascist — as are all those who voted for him; and supports the suppression of speech that he or she regards as “hate speech.”

While this is music to the ears of left-wing parents, most traditionally liberal parents will not be all that happy with this transformation. Unlike leftists, most liberals do love America and think that, despite its flaws, it is worthy of respect. They do not believe male and female are subjective categories, and they believe in free speech — even for “hate speech.”

For conservative parents, the transformation is far worse. “Nightmare” is not too strong a description. Not only does their child hold everything they cherish in contempt, their child, who loved and respected them a year or two before, now holds them in contempt.

It is a nightmare for another reason: Young people who are transformed into leftists almost always become less kind, less happy and more angry.

It’s hard to imagine the opposite could occur — that is, that a young person could buy into all the left-wing views described above and become a sweeter human being.

It is a sad rule of life that whatever the left touches, it ruins; music, art, literature, religion, late-night TV, the Academy Awards, sports, economies, the family structure, the Boy Scouts and race relations are just a few examples. It also ruins people — their character and their happiness.

How could it not?

One of the prerequisites of good character — as well as of happiness — is gratitude, and leftism is rooted in ingratitude. If you are grateful to be an American, you are, by definition, not a leftist. If you are, for example, a black who is grateful to be an American, you are a “traitor to your race,” an “Uncle Tom.” If you are a woman who is grateful to be an American, you are a “traitor to your gender.” Feminist icon Gloria Steinem once called female Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison a “female impersonator” because a real woman cannot be a conservative. In addition, the left drills into every nonwhite and every woman the idea that they are victims, and people who see themselves as victims are ungrateful and angry, two traits that always make a person meaner.

Every parent whose child came home from college (or, increasingly, high school) a leftist should be asked: “Is your daughter or son happier as a result of becoming a leftist? Is he or she kinder? More tolerant? More respectful?”

So it is not only institutions that the left ruins, but also the character of its adherents. Where are the prominent conservative equivalents of Robert De Niro shouting “F-— Trump” at awards ceremonies? Of Sarah Silverman tweeting to the president of the United States: “I’m just gonna go with F-— YOU, and also add that you are a smelly penis hole with balls that touch water. Eat s—, you greedy t—”? Of Rep. Rashida Tlaib telling supporters, among whom were children, “We’re gonna impeach the motherf—er”?

Every American should watch how a group of 10-year-old girls recently treated 85-year-old California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Being indoctrinated into leftism apparently permitted them to treat a U.S. senator, not to mention a woman 75 years older than them, with contempt.

It is inconceivable that a group of 10-year-old conservative kids, accompanied by their teachers, would ever treat an 85-year-old, senator or not, so condescendingly.

When you send your child to college, you are not only playing Russian roulette with their values. You are playing Russian roulette with their character and the way they will treat you. Left-wing parents do not have a similar worry. If their child somehow returns home from college a Christian or a religious Jew, not only will they not be treated with contempt, they will probably be treated with even more respect than before. Leftism makes you worse. Judeo-Christian religions make you better. That might not be the fashionable view, but it just happens to be true.



'How dare they?': Australian Mom told by her son’s teacher to STOP putting homemade biscuits in his lunchbox - 'unless she makes them for every child in the class'

"All men are equal" gone completely insane

A mother has been left furious after she was told not to pack her son homemade biscuits in his lunchbox - unless there's one for everyone in his class.

Australian mother Joanne said the uneaten cookies were sent home from the school with a handwritten note after her little boy wasn't allowed to eat the treat.

The note read: 'Dear mummy, can you please avoid sending cookies unless there is one for everyone. It's difficult for the other children when one has treats. Thank you.'

Taking to Facebook, Joanne said she was shocked by the comment but she wanted to see the teacher the next morning to get an explanation.

'I got this note sent home in my son's lunchbox because he had homemade biscuits in his lunchbox. I was horrified but didn't lose sleep over it, I figured I'd talk to the teacher the next day and see what she meant,' she said.

But when she met with the teacher, she was 'gobsmacked' by her response.

'She said it was "policy that homemade goods aren't encouraged unless there was enough to share with everyone". I questioned why and tried to talk to her openly but she said that it wasn't encouraged,' the mother said.

'I asked "if a pack of Tiny Teddies or Shapes would be okay and she said "that would be fine". So... I questioned how a homemade biscuit with four ingredients isn't encouraged, but a processed packet supermarket option was okay?

'She just kept saying it was policy and that the parent committee runs the policies so I'd need to take it up with them.'

The mother - who runs an additive-free living business - said she even suggested to the teacher she could come in to talk to the parents about the appropriate foods to pack in children's lunchboxes.

'She shut me down and questioned why I was feeling so passionate about this. I got nowhere,' Joanne said.

Despite the outcome, Joanne said she has since taped the blue note on her office wall as 'motivation' to remind her of the healthy lifestyle she already follows at home.

She clarified the incident happened in early 2017 but she later shared it to her Facebook page, which has since been met with outrage from fellow parents.

One woman said: 'That is madness! You are doing an amazing job at educating others. Keep going one family at a time and the ripple effect will catch up. Some are slow learners.'

Another said: 'This is rough! I was asked to stop sending sultanas in my child's lunchbox as it was deemed too unhealthy but packaged muesli bars, cakes and roll ups are fine. Sigh.'

Another woman suggested: 'Surely he wouldn't be able to share with everyone, what about the allergies issue?'

And one said: 'That is absolutely ridiculous! How dare they shut down a parent supplying their child with decent food! As a teacher I am constantly battling the opposite way, I can't imagine discouraging home baked goods. Keep fighting the good fight.'